(Balik-tanaw is a series of articles reviewing prominent figures and thoughts on politics, culture, arts, economics, and philosophy. It aims to re-introduce ideas to the millenial audience by contextualizing such ideas on present-day society, and by looking back on how this ideas shape our societies today.)
On Pericles and Democracy
Democracy, the placement of power in the hands of the majority, sounds great. In Pericles idea of democracy, there are pros ands cons. I will not dwell , though, on the positive aspects of it. Rather , I will focus on the downsides of his democracy (and democracy in general) and the ironies in it.
Democracy implies that the decisions in the community or state should be on the hands of the majority. But, as we looked into Pericles’ democracy, we noticed that that isn’t the case. Women, children, slaves and foreigners are not part of the assembly. The proclaimed “citizens” are only the free-born males, above the age of 18. We can say, therefore, that Athenian democracy is a democracy of the males. It would be doubtful to claim that they comprise the majority of the population, because if they did, majority of the activities outside the ongoing assemblies must have totally stopped. This would have made their way of assembly unsustainable, particularly during their age.
If we look closer, Athenian democracy turns out to be a rule of the minority (citizens) over the majority (the rest of the population). This majority would have to live with whatever the minority proposes. This is but the first essential self- contradiction we have discovered in Athenian democracy yet.
Compared to our so-called democracy, Athenian democracy is less inclusive. At least, in present day democracy, there is a already an opportunity for women and naturalized foreigners to participate in voting. A small part of the indigenous communities, too, is often coerced of their “duties”. Even convicts in prisons and citizens abroad are encouraged to vote. But the practice and ease of this is another question.
Participation and the Choosing of Representatives
Participation in decision-making, on the other hand , is practiced more genuinely in Athenian democracy than in present-day democracy. In Athenian democracy, citizens assemble as often as a few times months. Assemblies were attended by most of the citizens. Today, people are encouraged to participate in politics only once. It happens only during elections where people would have to choose a few people to represent them in the assemblies and sessions to happen in closed, guarded gates.
Today, the majority could only wish that they and their representatives share the same aspirations and thoughts during decision-makings. An impossible dynamic since the leaders of today have not much idea of how it is to be a mere citizen. They are placed in pedestals where they are safe from the hardships that the majority of the population experiences every day. Yet, these representatives have to make decisions for them, the actual citizens. A good example today are the policy-makers in traffic and commuting who do not really experience the hells of heavy traffic and commuting.
On another hand, a good example of a people sharing with their leader only r part of their aspirations is in the Duterte’s Philippines. When he run for presidency, he got the attention of the people by waging his war on drugs (also known as the war on the poor drug users and pushers). Many were happy with this particular campaign but weren’t sure if they still agree on other decisions regarding other issues such as the all-out war on NPA, on his foreign deals with China and Russia, on the campaign to raise the taxes, his joking about rape, the cigarette ban. Because the people assumed that he would be good on everything, then they would have to live with all his other decisions whether they actually agree with it or not. Just because some people loved his “war on drugs” campaign during elections, the people would have to submit to his other campaigns. And they would have to live like that for the next six years in his shadow.
In this instance, Athenian democracy is more participatory than today’s democracy. And Athenian democracy is more in touch with the people because they do not put their leaders in a pedestal with a high salary-grade coming from the taxes. In present-day representative democracy, it is the majority who would have to live with the decisions of the minority, even if they did not participate in the decision-making or even in choosing the leaders. 
Plato also has his reservations on election as an effective tool for choosing leaders. Sampling today, we find that voters are very easily influenced by promises through jingles and commercials. They choose according to popularity and wealth and not according to capability. Not even sincerity to serve. Plato argues, why is it that a person’s carefully studied vote is valued equal to the vote of someone who never thought about his vote seriously enough? 
Private v. Public Affairs
The total power (in Athenian democracy) of a citizen over his private affairs needs some clarifications. One wonders if in Athenian society, private affairs and property include family, women and children, and slaves. If that is the case, it wouldn’t be surprising to have high occurrences of domestic violence in Athenian society. It wouldn’t be surprising if women are battered, the slaves abused, and the children have no control over their future. This is because the males are the only ones who make decisions. It is more likely that they make decisions that protect themselves, rather than protect those who are not “citizens”. We have a sense though that ancient Greece values their women, children and slaves, but one may think that this is because they value them as property and as sectors that are useful to society, and not because they are equals.
Greatness of Their City, and the Value of Spoils
In Pericles’ Oration, he mentioned a couple of times how great their city was, also in comparison to other civilizations. I find it very similar to how America and other Northern countries proclaim their selves as great. It is a point of similarity worth discussing because this “greatness” ( or the idea they are greater than others) was an essential element of colonization and imperialism, resulting to racism, genocides, present economic and political sanctions and the likes. If we observe today, we will find that America has not freed itself yet from racism. Citing the unnecessary killings of African-Americans and Mexican-Americans inside America in the recent months and years. Just last week, there were clashes among civilians in Charlottesville because of Trump’s revival of racism, around a century after the civil war which conveyed the same conflict in race. All on the pre-tense of “Making America Great Again”.
In terms of enjoying the world and its spoils, Athenian democracy also share quite a lot with American democracy. Athens does not mind being open to other cities since they are more economically stable and experienced, and because they are richer therefore less prone to bankruptcy. Open agreements are not really threats for them because , like America, they have the capability to make deals that benefit them more.
In the idea of Globalization, for example, studies already show that “third-world” countries are the ones that benefit in it the least. “Third-world” or “developing/ under-developed” are infiltrated by foreign companies who buy raw materials and sell the processed products on a higher price. In a globalized world, huge multinational companies can also avail the cheapest labour from developing countries whose monetary value is less than those of already developed countries. In other words, huge companies (usually from the global north) can now buy cheap labour and materials from third-world countries (usually in the global south), and can sell them the finished products on a high price. They encourage the consumers (who are also the producers, most of the time) to buy expensive commodities, more often, with the idea Consumerism- of consumption as the standard for a good and happy life. They give them the option of choosing from brand A to brand B, and that’s just about it for freedom and choice.
In Athenian democracy, this type of enjoyment from the resources of the “world” is not too different. Their economic and military power is not weak. That’s why they are confident in opening up to the world, or rather, the world opening up to them. We may still consider this democratic, but being moral is another question.
To conclude, it was maintained that Athenian democracy has it’s pros and cons. What is sad is that, in present society, what we adopted are mostly the cons or the bad practices (rule of minority over majority, private affairs, “global” markets/ “free” trade). The good practices of Athenian democracy, we have eliminated (full participation, equality in law). It would have been a good move for our society to compare our so-called democracy with the ones in the past and across the globe. This is for us to check if we have improved people’s lives after 2 and a half millennia of so-called civilization.
Diliman, Quezon City
 Debunking Democracy, Bob Black
 The Republic, Plato
 Terrorized Into Being Consumers (video documentary) , John Zersan